A new report from the Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism reveals that more than a quarter of Americans read news on mobile devices, and those who do are highly engaged participants as well as being voracious grazers of news and information.
The report, “Understanding the Participatory News Consumer,” examines the impact of digital media on news consumption and interaction behaviors. A section of the study focused specifically on the growth of mobile devices reveals that more than 80 percent of adults now own cell phones and 37 percent use their phones to access the Web.
According to Tom Rosenstiel, Director of PEJ, “Those numbers are only going to go up as the penetration of smart phones grows. The computer of the future is held in your hand.”
And, in fact, those figures mirror a recent report from the Federal Communications Commission, which studied both wired and wireless broadband connectivity in the United States. The FCC is currently pushing to expand the wireless spectrum available to mobile broadband providers in anticipation of strong growth in consumer demand for those services.
The PEJ report highlights the importance of that trend to media organizations. “What the data shows is people are increasingly looking for news at their convenience, and nothing is more convenient than the device in your pocket,” Rosenstiel said in an interview Friday.
Rosenstiel: “People are increasingly looking for news at their convenience, and nothing is more convenient than the device in your pocket.”Another finding of the PEJ report: 46 percent of “on-the-go” news consumers are also “news participators,” meaning they actively contribute to the creation or distribution of information by commenting on articles, tagging content, contributing images, videos and articles, or sharing a link with their social network.
PEJ further identifies a highly engaged sub-group of mobile news consumers, about 13 percent of U.S. adult Internet users, who are characterized by daily news readership across multiple platforms including mobile, online, print and television.
The study reveals that while those highly engaged consumers are reading a lot of news, they do so from multiple outlets on multiple platforms. Just 7 percent of Americans get their news from a single source, while 46 percent visit four to six sources, in print, Web, TV and mobile on a typical daily basis.
Rostenstiel said the notion of foraging for news can be a positive one for news organizations. “People graze but they don’t graze very far.”
He noted the average engaged news reader has a half-dozen sources they return to frequently. “So, while people are hunting for what they are interested in, they are not hunting everywhere. They are hunting among a landscape of sources they know and are familiar with.”
>FCC study: Cell phone use high; Mobile Web use low (Mobile Media)
>Majority of mobile Web readers visit news sites (Mobile Media)